Missing Pieces of Modern Eskrima Practice, pt II

I am the world’s biggest procrastinator, I swear…

So I’m doing a little maintenance to the site, which I haven’t done in a few year actually, and I come across my folder of unfinished “articles”. I put articles in quotation marks because it’s really just the titles that I put up with a small note I left for myself three years ago to write out the entire idea. (This is how I organize future articles while I’m thinking about it–I start the article, then leave it to be finished later. In this case, just a title)  This is meant to be a series from the original article, which you can find here. Like I said, I’m a huge procrastinator. My long time readers will attest to that.

And the note?

create, then seize the moment to kill

I often joke that my mother is a drama queen. Well, I happen to have inherited that trait as well. Anyone who knows me and my approach to the martial arts–whether we are discussing Eskrima or Kung Fu or anything else–will tell you that I see this arts not as something fun or technical, but serious business.

See, the modern Eskrimador has come to see the FMAs as anything from highly technical skills of reflexes, to the fanciest ways to take a stick, to weapon complements to other skills like kicking or grappling. Sometimes, you’ll witness FMA guys so eager to show how Eskrima does everything from fighting with a scarf to a whip to grappling to throwing axes and blowdarts–that they forget it all began with a stick. Yes, the stick can be used to choke, and the abaniko strike can be used to set up an arm lock. But how about breaking some bones with that stick? You know, like the masters use to do? When I look at the old masters move, I can see in their choice of play as old men that they once use to break things with those sticks–not play patty cake or rolling around on the ground humping each other with their baston. It’s a stick. Learn all that other stuff if you like, but if you can’t crush an eye socket or break a clavicle with that thing, you ain’t doing Eskrima. I’m just saying…

We’ve all heard Eskrima in its rawest form referred to as “Cave-Man” style. Don’t laugh; there is a lot of truth to it. Eskrima/Arnis, in its purest form, is a very rudimentary, brutish art designed to smash whatever is in its path. <— At its core. However, there are many skills, advanced skills, if you will–that make this elementary-but-effective art as sophisticated and advanced as any other art out there. Those things aren’t easily identified by casual onlookers. Not even obvious to casual, self-proclaimed “enthusiasts”. This installment’s missing piece, the skill of creating then exploiting the kill, is a forgotten, but vital, piece of the pie.

I could explain this skill in a few sentences, but it would take me years to teach it to you in person. This is why this missing piece is a dying art. Students don’t hang around their teachers long enough to get those lessons, and too many teachers out here have trained in a way that they never learned the skill themselves. If you believe that experience is the best teacher, this missing piece is the antithesis to that saying. For experience is not the best teacher–pondered, studied, evaluated experience is the best teacher. And it must be the right type of experience. “Experience” is not time spent studying or training solo. Experience is referring to time that the art has been learned, trained and developed, then put to the test against opponents who are seeking to challenge everything you’ve done. The skill of creating opportunities to use finishing techniques, and then the ability to employ those techniques in the blink of an eye–which is what we are describing here–cannot be taught in a seminar, book, or DVD. In Eskrima, what means the difference between life and death is not how well your left hand can twirl as good as your right, nor how closely your blade techniques look like your hand techniques, nor how many disarmings you know. What does matter are things like if you possess the power to kill a man with your stick or to cripple him, if your eyes are quick enough to recognize a flaw in your opponent’s movement or if your hands are quick enough to strike, or if your footwork is complex enough you can stay one step ahead of your opponent that he is always off balance and you are always ready to pounce. These skills are a combination of knowing tactics, knowing the responses to those tactics, knowing the appropriate responses to those responses, and the ability to finish the fight when you decide the fight should end. It is a combination of psychology, physics, anatomy, power mechanics, mastery of movement, and mastery of the ability to control the opponent’s actions.

Allow me to give you some tips on how you can explore this skill on your own. Rather than spending time learning the newest drills and grappling moves with stick, I would highly recommend returning to the days when you sparred regularly–and then seeing if you can apply these ideas:

  • learn to use light, energy-saving strikes to create openings. whether you are engaged in a weapons vs weapon or empty hand vs weapon fight, your ordeal may rely heavily on conditioning. one cannot go into a fight moving at 100% speed and power because regardless of your fitness level, exhaustion can come very quickly. even if your opponent moved at top speed as well, the timing difference between the fastest guy and the slowest guy can be as slight as a fraction of a second. purposely move slower to throw off your opponent’s timing and set him up for the kill. you move slow, he moves fast, the chances of him overshooting a block or move are great. the recovery time of a missed full power blow is dangerously longer than a half-hearted strike that is really just a wind up to a killing blow. by the way, if you click the link a few sentences back, it will explain much better than I am now, and here is part II of that article
  • make use of feinting and faking. I’m sure everyone is familiar with the benefits of feinting and faking, but very few people practice them. in fact, the only guys I see utilizing feinting and faking regularly are those who are actively fighting competitively-yet very few people actually train them and come up with strategies using them! they are a vital tool in point fighting, but since most FMA guys hate point fighting, they never develop this skill. well I’ve got news for you. boxers, fencers, and knife fighters on the street engaged in KvK fights use them–and Bruce Lee admired boxers and fencers and use to be a street fighter. will you listen now? develop your ff skill until you can make your opponent drop his hand, raise his hand, disrupt his guard, move his feet, etc., at will–and you will be able to determine when the point the fight ends and you get to go home. this ain’t just for trophies and medals, this is life and death
  • grapple. huh? wasn’t I just complaining about people grappling with a stick in their hands? yes. but that’s not what I meant. I’m not talking BJJ with a stick:  I’m saying learn to use that non-weapon hand for something other than slapping and disarming. your free hand at close quarters can be used to push the opponent. when the opponent readjusts himself from being pushed–you finish him. or pull him, and when he attempts to move back, finish him. or knock his hand down, grab his hand, and so forth. slap him, scratch him, distract him, and while he’s dealing with that pesky free hand of yours–crack his cranium.

I’m going to stop here. But hopefully you get the idea. There is a lot you can do to learn to fight with weapons besides how many ways you make music with your sticks. Sinawali music, that’s cute. Well, take this tip from the old school guys and learn to create opportunities to strike and develop the ability to exploit them before the opponent realizes what happened. You’ll go far.

Stay tuned for part III!! Thank you for visiting my blog. If you like our articles, please subscribe and share them with your friends!

Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

One thought on “Missing Pieces of Modern Eskrima Practice, pt II”

  1. Aknowledging receipt of latest article.
    (That i may be included in any future shares,please).

    Kind regards,
    Garrith Brokensha
    South Africa

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